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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

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This was the name of a Roman province bounded on the W. by the Adriatic, and extending from Pannonia on the N. to Macedonia on the S. Though so near to Italy, it was for long comparatively unknown. Strabo writing about a.d. 20 says: ‘Illyria was formerly neglected, through ignorance perhaps of its fertility; but it was principally avoided on account of the savage manners of the inhabitants, and their piratical habits’ (VII. v. 11). It was subjugated by Tiberius in a.d. 9. When St. Paul contemplated a journey by Rome to Spain, he justified his desire for fresh fields by saying that from Jerusalem and round unto Illyricum (καὶ κύκλῳ μέχρι τοῦ Ἰλλυρικοῦ) he had fully preached the gospel of Christ (Romans 15:19).

Meyer, Gifford, and others (in loco) explain κύκλῳ as the region round Jerusalem, i.e. Judaea , Syria and Arabia. But in order to bear this sense the word would require the article. The meaning is rather that all the countries between Jerusalem and Illyricum-Syria, Cilicia, Galatia, Asia, Macedonia, Achaia-forming a rough aro of a circle, have been evangelized by the Apostle.

The words ‘unto Illyricum’ do not necessarily imply that he had preached within this province. He may be indicating the exterior rather than the interior limit. In his third journey he revisited Macedonia, and ‘having made a missionary progress through those parts’ (διελθὼν δὲ τὰ μέρη ἐκεῖνα) he came to Greece (Acts 20:2). ‘Those parts’ might include the south of Illyricum, but probably meant no more than the west of Macedonia. Strabo (vii. vii. 4), describing the Via Egnatia, which began at Dyrrachium (the modern Durazzo), notes that it traverses a part of Illyria before it enters Macedonia, and that ‘on the left are the Illyrian mountains.’

‘St. Paul would have followed this road as far as Thessalonica, and if pointing Westward he had asked the names of the mountain region and of the peoples inhabiting it, he would have been told that it was “Illyria.” The term therefore is the one which would naturally occur to him as fitted to express the limits of his journey to the West’ (Sanday-Headlam, in loco).

Writing as a Roman citizen to Christians in Rome, St. Paul avoids the ordinary Greek Ἰλλυρίς or Ἰλλυρία, and merely transliterates the Latin provincial term Illyricum. In the second half of the 1st cent. the name Dalmatia (q.v. [Note: quod vide, which see.] ), which had formerly meant the S. part of the province of Illyricum, began to be extended to the whole. For a time Illyricum and Dalmatia were convertible terms. Pliny has both; Suetonius marks the change from the one to the other; and from the Flavian period onward the term regularly used is Dalmatia. St. Paul, keeping pace with Roman usages, employs the new provincial name in a part of 2 Tim. which is generally accepted as genuine (4:10).

St. Jerome and Diocletian were Illyrians. The region now comprises Bosnia, Herzegovina, Montenegro, and N. Albania, and is as wild and unsettled as ever.

‘The eastern coast of the Adriatic is one of those ill-fated portions of the earth which, though placed in immediate contact with civilization, have remained perpetually barbarian’ (T. Arnold, Hist. of Rome, 1838-43, i. 492).

Literature.-T. Mommsen, Hist. of Rome, Eng. translation , 1894, Index, s.v.; Prov. of Rom. Emp.2, 1909, i. 199; articles s.v. in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols) (Ramsay), Hastings’ Single-vol. Dictionary of the Bible (Souter), and Smith’s DGRG [Note: GRG Dict. of Greek and Roman Geography.] (E. B. James).

J. Strahan.

Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Illyricum'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​hdn/​i/illyricum.html. 1906-1918.
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